Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Urbanity in Barcelona

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150

    Urbanity in Barcelona

    I was recently visiting family in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain (arguably ). Being the kind of saddo that spends inordinate amounts of time around this great site despite being neither a professional planner nor architect, I obviously took loads of picture of the urban space there.

    1st instalment

    Barcelona is a reasonably large city (about 3.1 mn - urban area). Seen from atop Parc Guell, the density, 'emergent' (disorder and fractality of the city are evident



    Back in the narrow streets, the perception is considerably more tranquil, oftentime downright peaceful.



    One definitional aspect of this urban space is the easy mingling of commercial (office/retail) and residential space (apartments, almost entirely); of vehicular traffic and pedestrian areas. All the following photos are from the Gracia neighborhood, laid out in a tight grid at the turn of the century over an existing small suburb as Barcelona expanded to engulf it. Below, you can see one of its largest squares (with a parking garage dug beneath it).Note the variety of building heights and details.



    That is one of the interesting points. Urbanity, human scale and private/public demarcation are easily maintained regardless of the architectural style, from Art Nouveau



    to Art Deco/Bauhaus



    to modern(ist), check out the almost brand new building.



    What about away from the squares? This is a picture of something of a thoroughfare, albeit a narrow, 1-way street. Pedestrians and cars get along OK, with compromises. I would point out that over 200 meters of this street, there a huge amount of retail diversity (I guess thanks to the density).



    One small block away from it, my favorite space in that area. A tree-lined plaza (the old town-hall square) surrounded by retail and numerous cafes/informal restaurants. A place to have a cup of joe, maybe a bite, peruse the paper (see the well-supplied newsstand) while the kiddies play around in a car-free environment. My 5yo girl entertained three generations of Catalans with her impromptu and prolonged 'ballet' performance, while my 7yo boy chased around and we got to kick back.

    Life and death of great pattern languages

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2007
    Location
    the clue is in the name
    Posts
    35
    Luca - thanks for that - Ahhh the sunshine - lovely...

    One thing worth mentioning is that in the photo of the large plaza and "easy mingling" is that the B:SM sign indicates the car park which would be under the area. What's really, really fab in Barcelona is that the all the large car parks are underground. The result is so much more public space for people and no ugly acres of cars everywhere.

    Barcelona is definitely THE architecture and planning geek destination.

  3. #3
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    on my 15 minute break
    Posts
    18,737
    You chose excellent examples to photogaph!
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    Thanks for teh comments, guys. Funny thing about the susnshine: it had been raining non-stop before and it has after..... we got lucky!!!
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,169
    Barcelona is a great city and you captured a lot of the nice architecture. I went in March and loved the markets more than anything. I want to go back and see more of the towns and region outside the city.

    One thing I did not like, from a planning standpoint is the block design outside of the old city. It's not pedestrian friendly and makes their city blocks totally auto dominated- all that speeding traffic and parked up intersections in the L'Eixample neighborhood... cool shops and restaurants there though.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    URBANITY IN BARCELONA – 2nd INSTALMENT

    Besides temperate weather, great art/architecture, etc. Barcelona is blessed with a seaside location. Like most industrial port cities, it rediscovered its shoreline late in the 20th century. The public spending around the time of the 1992 Olympics revitalized this area.

    But before we go there, let’s stop at the ‘Music Palace’ for a free, outdoor, low-70s, sunny weather jazz concert. Dig it, baby!



    The music hall itself is not my cup of tea, but just as a present to the brutalism purists out there, here’s a free bit of modernist porn (note: pictures can lie, I had to wait 5 minutes to get an unobstructed shot like this, the place was busy… also, 7yo hyperactive boys like brutalism, nothing to be broken thus no parental prohibitions)



    As we approach the shoreline, we can’t help notice tow rather tall, incongruous towers. The one pictured is a posh hotel. The other is an insurance company’s office block. I wonder if they get any work done.



    While the skyscrapers are a bit ‘meh’, the plinth upon which they rise is an urbanist’s dream of pedestrian-friendly retail. The weather and ambiance don’t hurt; “gambas al ajillo, por favor, y otra çerveza!”



    The beach looks better than is evident in this rather poor photo. The girls on the beach look a LOT better (but not as good as my wife, honey, if you’re reading this!!??!).



    NEXT: the ‘barri gotic’.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  7. #7
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    272
    Finally a decent Barca thread! Your pictures are much better than mine. You do a very good job of showing the tremendous range of building styles around the centre.

    Of course, harping on about how much of an planner / architects wet dream Barca is an open goal as the place is simply astonishing :P. Although out in the burbs it gets a good deal less photogenic, even these areas are generally liveable and well laid out.

    The metro and bus networks are obscenely good too.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    1,689
    Great thread! Keep 'em coming.

    Quote Originally posted by b3nr View post
    The metro and bus networks are obscenely good too.
    I'll second this. Barcelona spoiled me for life - now I try to measure the transit systems of every city that I live in or visit against it - and so far every city has failed. The networks themselves are impressive enough, but Barcelona also has the best wayfinding systems that I've seen anywhere. I was never lost or confused trying to figure out transit. My current home is especially bad at this, but Barcelona even blows away some other places that are very good (Paris, Amsterdam, London). North American cities all seem to expect that you use the system everyday and never need to figure it out for the first time.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    Quote Originally posted by b3nr View post
    ...out in the burbs it gets a good deal less photogenic, even these areas are generally liveable and well laid out...
    Bingo! One thing that stuck me early in my interest in urbanism was that Madrid's and Barcelona's outer suburbs, though architecturally somewhat crap, in many (though far from all) cases had quite good urban space and walkability as well as decent public transport links to the center.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    The ‘Barri Gotic’ (Barrio Gotico – Gothic Distric)

    The historic nucleus of Barcelona, dating back to Roman times and composed almost entirely of ‘old’ buildings, including a higher percentage than typical of actual medieval ones.

    Well, like the name sez, it’s full of Gothic architecture. This medieval “skybridge” is one of the most photographed objects in Barcelona, for obvious reason of photogenicity. Narrow streets, tourist-friendly architecture and weather.



    It’s not some sort of open-air museum, though. People live here, as evidenced by the contrast between (mostly 19th- and 18th-century) apartment buildings and the back of the old Cathedral in the background



    Even very ancient buildings are in common use. This sandwich shop (delicious, Italian-inspired stuff) is housed in an early renaissance building. Note the detail of the column capital and the original beam. Someone cut that timber long before Columbus sailed to the Americas



    I thoroughly enjoyed the promiscuous mingling of high brow building uses like the city museum housed in the old principality palace…



    …and commercial enterprises, ranging from (reasonably tasteful) souvenir shops, to pastelerias to more mundane retailers, all housed in building stock of ‘World Heritage’ status.



    The area is being increasingly ‘gentrified’ (at one point, it was downright unsavory, apparently). I liked the contrast between the recently scrubbed, beautiful stonework on this building and the graffiti-ed metal shutters (I titled the picture, ‘Classical, hip-hop Barcelona'). I think in some ways this could be almost Barcelona’s logo.



    While some of the main squares are pedestrianized, through most of the Barri Gotic cars and pedestrians share the road (with narrow pavements). It’s a somewhat uneasy truce but it generally works. The relatively busy pedestrian traffic and very narrowness of the streets discourage aggressive driving. No close shaves with the kiddies.



    Despite its name, the architecture of this area is fairly eclectic. I find this very fine classical, building to fit in just fine, personally. Now some jagged metal whorls or acres of titanium scrim….

    It made me reflect that often when we talk about 'contextuality' we are papering over the dismal failings of much post-war architecture. Certainly, gothic and classical have little problem co-existing.



    The area is full of surprises, like this establishment with rotisserie chicken broiling done on an outside corner (the attendant had just nipped in). From the name, I assume they also serve snails.



    At this point we debouched onto the notoriously busy/touristy Ramblas. Before I leave you, though, I want to point out that despite everyone going on relentlessly about bloody Gaudi (whose work I respect, BTW), what the bien-pensants rarely look at is the overwhelming number of ‘non-famous’ but exuberantly Art Nouveau and ‘eclectic’ buildings of Barcelona that never make it into the architectural histories. So I thought I’d regale you with a couple.



    and

    Last edited by mendelman; 19 Jun 2008 at 1:13 PM.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    31
    Excelente! I love Barcelona. Below is a link to a photo of the Placa Reial, one of my favorite places in the city. I was walking through it once in the evening, and the whole square was in shadow except for one tiny ray of sunlight coming through the west entrance and hitting the fountain in the middle - in the shadow, the foamy water was glowing like it was lit up from the inside. Absolutely magical!

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...&ct=image&cd=1

    Incidentally, that was January or February, and that entrance actually faces southwest - I would think the evening sun only finds the fountain in the winter, when it is setting south of due west.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Urbanity as opposed to urbanism
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 2
    Last post: 06 Jun 2008, 9:52 AM
  2. Urbanity?
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 7
    Last post: 27 Apr 2007, 1:56 PM
  3. Replies: 0
    Last post: 26 Sep 2005, 6:47 PM
  4. Greetings from Barcelona
    Introduce Yourself
    Replies: 16
    Last post: 08 Jun 2004, 8:42 AM
  5. Architecture of Barcelona
    Cities and Places
    Replies: 0
    Last post: 02 Jul 2003, 5:37 AM